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Frank Jobe, inventor of Tommy John surgery, passes away at age 88

Mar 6, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT


Sad news to pass along this evening, as Tommy John surgery pioneer Dr. Frank Jobe has passed away at the age of 88.

Jobe worked for the Dodgers for 50 years and is best known for performing the first-ever unlar collateral ligament reconstructive elbow surgery on left-handed pitcher Tommy John on September 25, 1974. While it was a last-ditch effort to save his career, John went on to pitch 14 more seasons.

The procedure, which would eventually be known as Tommy John surgery, changed the sport and has extended the careers of countless pitchers. Jobe was honored in Cooperstown last July for the groundbreaking surgery, but many have argued that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to think of many people who have had a bigger impact on the game of baseball.

Here’s a statement from Dodgers president Stan Kasten:

“Frank Jobe is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word. His dedication and professionalism in not only helping the Dodgers, but athletes around the world is unparalleled. He was a medical giant and pioneer and many athletes in the past and the future can always thank Frank for finding a way to continue their careers.”

MLB commissioner Bud Selig has also released a statement:

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Dr. Frank Jobe, a great gentleman whose work in Baseball revolutionized sports medicine. Since 1974, his groundbreaking Tommy John surgery has revitalized countless careers, especially those of our pitchers. His wisdom elevated not only the Dodgers, the franchise he served proudly for a half-century, but all of our Clubs.”

“Dr. Jobe’s expertise, as well as his enthusiasm to mentor his peers, made the National Pastime stronger. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Dr. Jobe’s family, friends, Dodger colleagues and the many admirers of his pioneering spirit throughout our game.”

Rest in peace, Dr. Jobe. And thanks.

  1. gattaga72 - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    In True Blue Heaven rest in peace Doctor

  2. raysfan1 - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:57 PM

    RIP and thank you, good Dr.

  3. pacnwsailor - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    Dr. Jobe…you define what a contribution to the game is. Thank you for giving a lot of players more years on the field.

    On another note, what morons have not voted him into the Hall of Fame. Baseball writers are complete idiots.

    • jwbiii - Mar 7, 2014 at 12:32 AM

      As of the current rules (2010 – present), there doesn’t seem to be any way to elect a “pioneer,” which is certainly how I would characterize Dr. Jobe. From 2001 – 2009, the Veterans Committee was composed of all Hall of Famers, Spink Awardees, and Frick Awardees. Before that the VC was composed of 5 HOFers/5 writers/5 executives.

  4. cackalackyank - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    Great contribution to the game, RIP. Hopefully you will get into the HOF…and maybe the guy they named the surgery after will get in with you….

  5. kcroyal - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:22 PM

    What was the standard procedure before ’74 for UCL sprains and tears and the like? Rub some dirt on it? Seems like its becoming more and more common, maybe that’s just because the surgery is so sucrssfull now or maybe it’s just my perception. But I’m curious what happened to pitchers before he gave Tommy John elbow surgery.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:40 PM

      KC, as I recall, they retired.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:43 PM

      You either pitched, or pitched hurt ineffectively, or washed out. Here’s a great grantland article about older athletes who might have had their careers saved by modern technology/surgery:

    • rpearlston - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      That lit of pitchers would include Mel Stottlemyre, who grabbed his pitching shoulder, walked off the mound, and never threw another pitch “in anger”. That was how it was handled – UCL tears were career enders.

  6. nothanksimdriving123 - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    I feel it is also important to note Dr Jobe’s service to our nation as a medical officer with the 101st Airborne during World War II. This is me saluting him.

  7. dirtyharry1971 - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    He saved a lot of careers, I don’t know if he is in the HOF but if a non player ever deserved to be this would be the guy.

  8. Carl Hancock - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    @kcroyal You were pretty much done. Or if you did continue to pitch, you’d never be effective as you once were and would be in constant pain. It was typically a career ender.

  9. firstcutlive - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    Reblogged this on First Cut Live.

  10. tmohr - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    From the NYT obit:

    “It’s the ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction while using the palmaris longus tendon,” he wryly remarked to The Orange County Register. “That’s why they call it Tommy John surgery.”

  11. realgone2 - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    I’d elect him for the hall. Did a lot for baseball.

  12. rpearlston - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    I remember reading an interview of Dr Jove in “baseball Weekly”. In that article Jobe stated that the technique that is now called Tommy John surgery had been pioneered some time before John needed it. It was used to strengthen the joints of polio survivors who had some damage but were not permanently paralyzed. Jobe realized that the same procedure could give Tommy John the chance to pitch again, John agreed to take the chance, and the rest is sports history.

    The writer also asked Jobe if there was any surgery on a professional athlete that gave him pause. Jobe said yes, but it wasn’t the surgery on Tommy John. It seems Dr Jobe was also a golf fan, and the surgery to which he referred was a procedure done on Jack Nicklaus’ knee.

  13. Professor Fate - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:32 PM

    About time the HOF instituted a Pioneers of the Game section (or something along those lines) and made Dr. Jobe the first inductee. I’m sure there are others who have positively impacted the game, but aren’t in because there isn’t a section for them. Can anyone think of others who should be considered along with Jobe?

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